GODFREY MWAKIKAGILE, NYERERE AND AFRICA: END OF AN ERA
Contact: Black Academic Press
In addition to the Acknowledgments and the Introduction, you can also read excerpts from the last chapter.
Chapter One: One-Party System and National Unity: Consolidation of the Nation-State
Chapter Two: Milestones: Africa since the Sixties
Chapter Three: Tanganyika Before the Union: Creation of a Non-Racial State
Chapter Four: Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar: Nyerere as Architect of First African Union
Chapter Five: The Rhodesian Crisis
Chapter Six: Tanzania Recognizes Biafra
Chapter Seven: The Ouster of Idi Amin by Tanzania
Chapter Eight: The Last of the Independence Leaders: Life Under Nyerere from a Personal Perspective: End of an Era
Appendix I: Julius Nyerere, On the Boycott of South Africa, in a letter to the editor of Africa South, October-December 1959
Appendix II: Address by President Benjamin Mkapa of the United Republic of Tanzania at the state funeral for Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere
Appendix III: Tributes to Mwalimu Julius Nyerere from around the world
About the Author
I AM deeply grateful to many individuals and institutions who have served as a source of some of the material I have used to write this book. While the analysis is mine, and a lot of the information I have also used is mine since I am the primary source because of my first-hand knowledge of Tanzania and Africa as a whole; I must also acknowledge that my work would not have been completed without the secondary sources I have cited to fortify my thesis.
Space does not permit me to name all those whose works have provided documentary evidence to support my analysis. They include writers and publishers, professors and academic institutions, politicians and journalists, as well as ordinary people without whom leaders would be nothing. I must, however, make special mention of the following:
Colin Legum of Africa Contemporary Record; Professor Ali A. Mazrui, director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at the State University of New York, Binghamton, and former chairman of the political science department and dean of the faculty of social sciences at Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, and director of the Center for Afro-American and African studies at the University of Michigan, among other positions; Hackman Owusu-Agyeman, Ghanaian member of parliament; Professor Adam Hochschild of the University of California, Berkeley; Professor Ronald Aminzade, sociology department, University of Minnesota; Professor Haroub Othman, Institute of Development Studies, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Ann Talbot of the International Committee of the Fourth Internationale, London; Jorge Castaneda, author of Companero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara; Gamal Nkrumah of Al-Ahram, Cairo, Egypt; Samir Amin, economist, author, and director of Forum du Tiers Monde, Dakar, Senegal; Ikaweba Bunting of the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Sam G. Amoo of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), New York, among many others.
Their special contribution is evident throughout the book. But I am equally indebted to the rest. That I have not named them here does not, in any way, diminish their contribution to the successful completion of my work. They are given full attribution in this study.
And to the people of Tanganyika, later Tanzania, who gave Julius Nyerere to Africa and to the rest of the world, special acknowledgment must be made to them for making his leadership possible. Without them, Africa - let alone the rest of the world - would probably not even have heard of Nyerere, except as a distinguished academic as he probably would have been, had he continued to teach instead of becoming a politician. They provided the stage on which he demonstrated his qualities as a leader of international stature, one of the few titans Africa - indeed the world - has produced in a span of centuries.
Finally, any faults in this humble analysis are entirely mine. But, while I accept full responsibility for the mistakes in the book in terms of facts and analysis, I must also acknowledge that writing this kind of book is a collective enterprise, not a singular effort by the author alone. We are mere mortals, with frailties, and are able to see far only because we stand on the shoulders of others. And the more we scan the horizon, the more we realize how little we know.
JULIUS NYERERE was one of the most influential leaders in the twentieth century, and his death in October 1999 marked the end of a political career that spanned almost half a century. It also marked the end of an era of the African founding fathers who led their countries to independence in the sixties.
This work looks at some of the major policy initiatives and achievements by Nyerere, a leader whose humility and dedication led millions of ordinary people in Tanzania and elsewhere to identify with him, and pay him the highest tribute by simply saying, "He was one of us." There is probably no higher tribute, simple yet profound, to a man who earned great respect around the world, from the most humble to the most exalted, including his enemies. Yet he was not without fault, and admitted his mistakes, unlike most leaders who see that as a sign of weakness and not an attribute of leadership.
The book is also a telescopic survey of the major events that have taken place across the continent during the post-colonial period. Included in this are events in which President Nyerere played a critical role, influencing the course of African history. It is also a study of the modern African state under the one-party system and how its foundation was laid in the sixties, Africa's decade of euphoria marking the end of colonial rule.
My role in this undertaking is not one of an entirely disinterested observer. I was born and brought up in Tanganyika, now Tanzania, as were my parents and grandparents. I also lived and grew up under Nyerere. Yet, because of that, I bring to this study a perspective many people who could have undertaken the same project, don't have, if they were not born and reared in Tanzania and did not live under Nyerere. But in spite of this, my analysis of the events in Tanzania, and elsewhere across the continent in which Nyerere played a major and sometimes the most prominent role , is not in any way distorted by bias, compromising scholarship. And as a former news reporter in Tanzania when Nyerere was president, I was in a position to evaluate events objectively in the same way I have in this work; true to my conviction, shared by others, that dispassionate analysis should be the guiding principle in scholarly pursuits and other works for the sake of truth.
The analytical context I have used from a Pan-African perspective to address some of the major themes in this work underscores one fundamental reality about Africa: the continent is littered with non-viable political entities we call independent countries; most of them failed states or on the verge of collapse. Therefore the call for regional integration, even for continental unification as a remote possibility, is not a mere academic exercise but a matter of sheer survival. The state is still the basic unit in the international system, and may not be entirely replaced. But many of its functions are being assumed by regional bodies at the macronational level, and even on a continental scale as in Europe where they have a functional Pan-European entity, the European Union, with a common currency, a common parliament and other integrated institutions.
Africa has simply failed to unite, with tragic consequences, as was clearly demonstrated in the case of the Congo, and Rhodesia, in the sixties when a united response - in the practical sense, with troops under a Pan-African command as urged by Nkrumah - could have made a difference. Rwanda was another tragic failure, as was Somalia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mozambique, the Congo again, and many others. Through the decades, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) - replaced by the African Union (AU) in 2001 - has been no more than a prestigious debating club for Africa's tin-pot dictators. Nyerere dismissed it in the seventies as nothing but "a trade union of tyrants." And he worked relentlessly throughout his political career to achieve African unity, culminating in the unification of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964; a union he engineered, and the only one of independent states that has ever been formed on the continent.
While I have ended this study with a chapter from a personal perspective, reflecting on Tanzania and on the leadership of Julius Nyerere, I have done so only to the extent that my reflections help further illuminate the themes I have addressed in a book that may not do justice to one of the towering figures in history. As Professor Ali Mazrui described Nyerere: "In global terms, he was one of the giants of the 20th Century..., he did bestride this narrow world like an African colossus"(1).
1. Ali A. Mazrui, "Nyerere and I," Africa Resource Center, October 1999: Professor Mazrui writes a memorial tribute on the special bonds between him and the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, one of Africa's few great statesmen. As he wrote in conclusion: "Julius Nyerere was my Mwalimu too. It was a privilege to learn so much from so great a man."
CHAPTER EIGHT: THE LAST OF THE INDEPENDENCE LEADERS: LIFE UNDER NYERERE FROM A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE: END OF AN ERA
THE DEATH of Julius Nyerere in October 1999 marked the end of an era in more than one way.
He was one of the pioneers in the struggle to end colonial rule after the end of World II. He was also one of the first African leaders who led their countries to independence in the late fifties and in the sixties. And he was one of the last surviving leaders who spearheaded the struggle for African independence; among them, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sekou Toure, Modibo Keita, Patrice Lumumba and others. And he outlived most of them. The only surviving former African presidents who led their countries to independence in the sixties, and who outlived Nyerere, were Ben Bella, Kenneth Kaunda and Milton Obote who were also his ideological compatriots like Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Modibo Keita and Lumumba.
It was the era of "Big Men," the founding fathers, and the life of Julius Nyerere as a political leader of international stature epitomized the best among them, despite a number of failures during their tenure. They will be remembered as the leaders who not only led their countries to independence but who also maintained national unity, especially in the early years after the end of colonial rule, laying the foundation for the nations we have across the continent today. They will also be remembered as the leaders who - besides Azikiwe and a few others - introduced the one-party system to fight tribalism and consolidate nationhood, and socialism to achieve economic development.
Nyerere will be remembered for both, probably more than any other African leader. His one-party state was probably the most successful in transcending tribalism and maintaining national unity. Tribalism never became a prominent feature of national life in Tanzania under Nyerere, unlike in other African countries wracked by war and other conflicts. And besides Nkrumah, he was also the most articulate exponent and theoretician of one-party rule in Africa. A firm believer in socialism until his last days, he was also one of the strongest proponents of socialist policies for decades. And he lived and died as a socialist, probably more than any other African leader. Even after his socialist policies failed to sustain and fuel Tanzania's economic growth, he remained a firm believer in socialism, and responded to his critics in rhetorical terms: "They keep saying you've failed. But what is wrong with urging people to pull together? Did Christianity fail because the world isn't all Christian?"(1).
It is not the purpose of this chapter to examine the successes and failures of Nyerere's socialist policies but to look at how life was under Nyerere in one of the poorest and most ethnically diverse countries in Africa and, indeed, in the entire world. These are my reflections on Tanzania, the land of my birth (it was then called Tanganyika), and on the life and death of Julius Nyerere, a leader my fellow countrymen and I came to know through the years as a patron saint of the masses, and as one of the world's most influential leaders in the twentieth century.
His socialist policies were mostly a failure, but not his ideals of equality and social justice. My life in Tanzania, like that of millions of other Tanzanians, was shaped and guided by those ideals. It is these ideals which sustained Tanzania and earned it a reputation as one of the most stable and peaceful countries in Africa, and one of the most united; a rare feat on this turbulent continent. It was Nyerere's biggest achievement, as he himself said. And it was, even more so than the unification of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964, although this was also a feat of singular significance on a divided continent.
Tanzania stands out as the only country in Africa which was formed as a union of two independent states. No other union has been consummated on the entire continent, setting Nyerere apart. It was he who engineered the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. And it was he who played the biggest role in maintaining stability of the union, and even in sustaining the union itself because of his sense of fairness and extraordinary ability in consensus building as a basis for national unity. Although the union was indeed a big achievement, there was no question that Nyerere had other goals in that area. His biggest failure, he said, was that he did not succeed in convincing his fellow leaders in neighboring countries to form an East African federation.
But in fairness, it must be stated that it was the other East African leaders who failed to live up to their Pan-African commitment to form the federation. Kenyatta and Obote agreed with Nyerere in June 1963 to form the East African federation before the end of the year, but never did. The other two leaders were not as enthusiastic as Nyerere was. Kenyatta was the least enthusiastic. Obote was closer to Nyerere, ideologically, and in his commitment to a political union of the three East African countries. But internal opposition to his rule, especially from the Buganda kingdom, precluded any possibility of fulfilling his Pan-African commitment to form the East African federation.
Although failure to form the East African federation was one of Nyerere's biggest disappointments in foreign policy, he also had one major achievement in this area as the most prominent and relentless supporter, among all African leaders, of the liberation movements in southern Africa, and lived up to his commitment. Tanzania under his leadership became the headquarters of all the African liberation movements and provided material, diplomatic, and moral support to the freedom fighters through the years until the end of white minority rule. But without strong domestic support, Nyerere's efforts to help free southern Africa, and pursuit of his foreign policy initiatives, would not have been successful. It was Tanzania's stability and mass support for Nyerere as a national leader which made the realization of these goals possible. And it is this domestic arena that we now turn to, in my reflections on Tanzania and on the life and death of Julius Nyerere.
My life as an African has a lot in common with the lives of my fellow Africans across the continent. We all come from countries affected by one form of strife or another, differing only in degree. And we all, at least most of us, belong to one tribe or another. Call it ethnic group, a term more acceptable - to some people - than tribe because of the latter's derogatory connotation, or even clan as in Somalia. It is still a tribe in all its manifestations in terms of malignancy associated with tribalism, although not all of us are tribalist. Therefore countries like Kenya and Nigeria, Rwanda and Burundi, which have had serious ethnic conflicts ignited and fueled by power struggle between different groups, are not unique in this continent of polyethnic societies. They all face basically the same problems, but differ in the way they tackle them, if at all. In many cases, they do nothing.
But there are a few exceptions where tribalism has not been such a major problem. One of them is Tanzania. Growing up in Tanganyika, later Tanzania, in the sixties was a unique experience in this part of Africa where many of our neighbors were going through turmoil, rocked by tribal conflicts and other forms of strife, during the very same time when we were enjoying relative peace and stability in my country.
The Hutu and the Tutsi in neighboring Rwanda and Burundi were at each other's throat, killing each other, a perennial problem in these two countries. The former Belgian Congo, another neighbor, was torn by civil war, ignited and fueled by ethnoregional rivalries, secession, and intervention by outside powers including the United States and other Western countries especially Belgium, France, and apartheid South Africa as well as Rhodesia both of which also belonged to the Western camp, the Soviet Union, and the People's Republic of China. All these highly combustible elements in the Congo, which slid into anarchy soon after winning independence, would have been too much for any leader to handle without solid national support for a strong central government. The Congo had neither. The country was split along ethnoregional lines, making it impossible for any leader to mobilize national support for central authority. And the central government itself was weak, and national allegiance to it tenuous at best.
I remember listening to shortwave radio broadcasts from Congo's capital, Leopoldville (renamed Kinshasa by Mobutu in 1971), and from Elisabethville (now Lubumbashi), capital of the secessionist Katanga Province under Moise Tshombe which is about 300 miles west from my home province, Mbeya Region, on the Tanzania-Zambia-Malawi border in southwestern Tanzania. The broadcasts were in Kiswahili, one of the languages spoken in Congo - which is also the national language of Tanzania - and the war in the Congo dominated the news. The Simba rebellion (simba means lion in Kiswahili), the capture of Stanleyville by Belgian paratroops, the battle for Katanga between Tshombe's army and mercenaries and United Nations peacekeeping forces; these are some of the most memorable events I can easily recall, even if I don't cherish the memory because of the devastation wrought in this bleeding heart of Africa.
Those were the turbulent sixties when the Congo was in the news everyday. Besides the radio broadcasts coming directly from Leopoldville and Elisabethville everyday about the war, we also got ample news about the same events on our national radio, TBC (Tanganyika Broadcasting Corporation), Dar es Salaam. The conflict in the Congo was one of the dominant stories even in Tanganyika, almost everyday. But there were other crises in the region.
Uganda, another neighbor of Tanzania and Congo, also had to contend with separatist threats by the Buganda kingdom; although not as serious as those in the Congo, but serious enough to prompt President Obote to use military force to contain the danger. In May 1966, he swiftly deposed the Kabaka and declared a state of emergency in the Buganda kingdom. And in June 1967, he abolished all four kingdoms and declared Uganda a republic. The other traditional centers of power in the kingdoms of Toro, Ankole, and Bunyoro, and in the princedom of Busoga, had their own well-established political institutions like the Buganda kingdom and were equally suspicious of the national government which wanted to centralize power under a unitary state; thus stripping traditional rulers of authority over their own people. But they did not pose as a big a threat to President Obote as King (Kabaka) Edward Frederick Mutesa of the Buganda kingdom did.
Another neighbor, Kenya, under the leadership of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, had just emerged from Mau Mau, and the Kikuyu were consolidating their position as the dominant tribe across the spectrum at the expense of their rivals, the Luo, and other tribes; culminating in the assassination of 39-year-old Tom Mboya, a Luo and Kenyatta's heir apparent, in July 1969. I remember the day he was assassinated in broad daylight in Kenya's capital, Nairobi. It was Saturday afternoon, and I was at work then, as a reporter at The Standard, Dar es Salaam. The assassination is still vivid in my memory because of the magnitude of the tragedy itself. It was also one of the major assassinations in East Africa and, indeed, in the entire continent in the post-colonial era.
Tom Mboya's assassination threatened to plunge Kenya into chaos. No one knew how members of his tribe, the Luo, and other Kenyans opposed to Kenyatta's leadership and domination by the Kikuyu, would react. As Nashon Njenga Njoroge, a Kikuyu and the man arrested and accused of shooting Tom Mboya, said after he was captured: "Why don't you go after the big man?" The implication of who exactly "the big man" was, besides Mzee himself, added to the confusion, as tempers ran high especially among the Luo, Mboya's fellow tribesmen. Large-scale violence was a distinct possibility. Fortunately, nothing of the sort happened. But from then on, a cloud hung over Kenya, and prospects for peaceful co-existence between the country's two main ethnic groups and their allies remained bleak. The problem was compounded by the treatment of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, another Luo, who resigned as Kenya's vice president under Kenyatta and in March 1966 formed the opposition party, the Kenya People's Union (KPU). But he was effectively neutralized as an opposition leader. His passport was withdrawn, preventing him from going to the United States to deliver a lecture at Boston University, entitled, "Revolution As It Affects Newly Independent States." He was also denied permission to visit Tanzania.
On October 27, 1969, he was put under house arrest, following an anti-government demonstration by KPU supporters and, three days later, the KPU was banned, leaving the Kenya African National Union (KANU) led by Kenyatta as the only legal party in the country. And on November 11, 1969, Kenyatta was re-elected to a second term. All this took place only about three months after Mboya was assassinated. Yet, Oginga Odinga was one of Kenya's most revered politicians. He was also one of the most prominent leaders of the independence movement, not only in Kenya but in Africa as a whole. And it was he who led KANU when Kenyatta was in prison, and led the Kenyan delegation to the constitutional talks in London on Kenya's transition from colonial rule to independence. Many Kenyans and others also remember him as the author of the best-seling book, Not Yet Uhuru, meaning "Not Yet Independence," which he wrote after he resigned as Kenya's vice president. Nyerere wrote the introduction to the book. But although Odinga was silenced, he remained a highly respected leader in Kenya, and an important figure in Kenyan politics even today as much as Kenyatta is.
There were other crises in the region. In Zambia, formerly Northern Rhodesia, just across the border from my home region in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, violence also erupted on a significant scale. The country had just won independence from Britain in October 1964, highly optimistic of the future under the leadership of Kenneth Kaunda, a former schoolteacher and an apostle of non-violence, and author of a book, Zambia Shall Be Free. Yet, just before and after independence, Zambia was rocked by violence instigated by members of an anarchist independent church movement, known as the Lumpa Church, led by a prophetess, Alice Lenshina, which claimed hundreds of lives. The church members refused to pay taxes and rejected secular authority. They clashed with the government and fortified their villages, and refused to surrender to security forces. And they invoked the Scriptures to justify their defiance and refusal to submit to temporal authority.
The Lumpa Church and its leader Alice Lenshina became household names; and clashes between government forces and the church members, one of the major stories in the early sixties in that part of Africa, with the shortwave radio as an indispensable medium. Zambia also had to contend with separatist threats in the western province, also known as Barotseland which was and still is a powerful kingdom, and in the southern part of the country which was also an opposition stronghold of Zambia's main opposition leader, Harry Nkumbula of the African National Congress (ANC). Maluniko Mundia, leader of the United Party (UP), was another prominent opposition figure. He came from Barotse Province - Barotseland - where he was allied with the powerful traditional rulers. His party was eventually banned in 1968 because of its sectarian politics, threatening national unity.
And just 30 miles from my home in the misty blue mountains in the Great Rift Valley - Rungwe District - in southwestern Tanzania, across the border in Malawi (formerly Nyasaland), Life-President Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, had instituted a reign of terror, persecuting and killing his former compatriots, including leading cabinet members some of whom sought asylum in Tanzania. Malawi's minister of foreign Affairs, Kanyama Chiume, was one of them. When I was a reporter at the Daily News in Dar es Salaam, he was at The Nationalist, owned by the ruling party TANU (Tanganyika African National Union), where he worked as a features writer and editor, together with Ben Mkapa who was the managing editor before President Nyerere appointed him editor of the Daily News. Years later, Mkapa himself was elected president of Tanzania for two five-year terms from 1995 - 2005.
Under Nyerere, Tanzania became a haven for asylum seekers and refugees from many African countries and others, and I attended Songea Secondary School in Ruvuma Region in the southern part of the country with some of the sons of these exiled cabinet members from Malawi, such as Henry Chipembere, who was minister of education under President Banda; and worked with others on the editorial staff of the Daily News. There were reporters from other countries on our staff, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria (from former Biafra), and Britain.
Dr. Banda also claimed substantial parts of Tanzania, including my home district, Rungwe, and the rest of Mbeya Region in southwestern Tanzania, as Malawian territory. He also claimed the entire Eastern Province of Zambia, provoking a curt response from Zambian president, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, who challenged Banda to "Go ahead and declare war on Zambia"(2).
And President Nyerere dismissed Banda's claim of large chunks of Tanzanian territory as "expansionist outbursts which do not scare us, and do not deserve my reply." The outlandish claim also provoked a sharp response from Nyerere who said Dr. Banda was "insane." But, he warned, "Dr. Banda must not be ignored; the powers behind him are not insane."(3).
So, that was the situation in these neighboring countries in the sixties when I was in my teens, and thereafter. The situation in Mozambique, another neighbor, was somewhat different but equally explosive. Mozambique was still a Portuguese colony, and, because Tanzania gave full support to the freedom fighters who used our territory as a rear base and as headquarters of their liberation movement FRELIMO (Portuguese acronym for Mozambique Liberation Front), the Portuguese frequently bombed parts of southern Tanzania, including Ruvuma Region where I attended Songea Secondary School. But the attacks only strengthened our resolve to support the freedom fighters; an unwavered commitment that continued until Mozambique finally won independence in June 1975 after almost 500 years of Portuguese rule.
One of the casualties of this liberation struggle was Dr. Eduardo Mondlane, founder and first president of FRELIMO, who was assassinated in Dar es Salaam in February 1969 when he opened a parcel, rigged with a bomb, mailed to him from Japan. The bomb, hidden in a book of Russian essays, was traced back to the Portuguese secret police in Lisbon. I was then a student at Tambaza High School in Dar es Salaam. I was in standard 13 (Form V) that year. Our high school system had two grades, standard 13 and standard 14 (Form V and Form VI), covering two years, what Americans call grade 13 and grade 14, after completion of secondary school in standard 12. A number of students and I attended Mondlane's funeral at Kinondoni Cemetery within walking distance from our high school. President Nyerere was at the grave site, together with Mondlane's widow Janet and their two little children, a boy and a girl. Leaders of all the African liberation movements based in Dar es Salaam, as well as members of the diplomatic corps, also attended the funeral, one of the saddest moments in our history.
But the assassination of Dr. Mondlane did not in any way interfere with the liberation struggle. President Nyerere, who had persuaded Mondlane to come to Tanganyika and establish a base there for the liberation of Mozambique when the two met at the United Nations where Mondlane worked and when Nyerere pleaded his case for Tanganyika's independence, vowed to continue supporting the freedom fighters until Mozambique was finally free. Mondlane made the right decision when he returned in 1962 and went on to unite the various Mozambican groups that formed FRELIMO, one of the most successful liberation movements in colonial history. Nyerere's invitation to the freedom fighters was typical of him. As he stated in his address to the Tanganyika Legislative Council (LEGCO) on October 22, 1959, even before our country became independent:
"We the people of Tanganyika, would like to light a candle and put it on top of Mount Kilimanjaro which would shine beyond our borders giving hope where there was despair, love where there was hate, and dignity where before there was only humiliation."(4).
And he went on fulfill that pledge. Without Tanzania as a rear base and conduit for material support to the freedom fighters, Mozambique would probably not have won independence when it did, and the liberation of other countries in southern Africa, including South Africa itself (the bastion of white rule on the continent), would have been equally affected, only in varying degrees. In spite of her poverty as one of the poorest countries in the world, Tanzania still contributed a significant amount of resources to the liberation struggle far more than many other and richer African countries did. Many people used to say Tanzania contibuted more than its share; let other countries play their part. I also remember talking to a Malawian doctor in Detroit, Michigan, when I was a student there in the early seventies, who said "Tanzania is doing too much," overburdening herself, while many other African countries are doing nothing or very little to support the liberation struggle in southern Africa and Portuguese Guinea (Guinea-Bissau) in West Africa. And there were even some people in Tanzania who said President Nyerere was devoting himself too much to the liberation struggle and pursuit of other foreign policy goals while overlooking domestic problems. Yet there was no contradiction between the two; his commitment to the well-being of Tanzania was not compromised in any way; and he could not have succeeded in the pursuit of his foreign policy objectives - including support of the liberation movements - without the unwavering support of the vast majority of Tanzanians. And as David Martin, a distinguished British journalist with The Observer, London, who was deputy editor of the Standard, Tanzania, and the one who first hired me as a reporter at the newspaper back in June 1969 when I was still a high school student, stated in December 2001, two years after Nyerere died:
"I arrived in the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam as a journalist on 9 January 1964. Three days later there was a revolution in Zanzibar by the African majority against the Arab minority put in power by the retreating British colonialists just one month earlier. An African-driven union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar followed three months later and the country's name was changed to Tanzania. Despair, hate and humiliation had begun the painfully slow process of retreating.
Dar es Salaam in those days was the headquarters of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Liberation Committee. Living in the city were the leaders of the liberation movements of southern Africa such as the ebullient Eduardo Mondlane from Mozambique, more taciturn poet, Dr Agostinho Neto (from Angola), and a host of others. Nyerere was their beacon of hope.
He was uninhibited by the paranoid attitudes that gripped the east and west at the height of the Cold War. And although he was not adverse to using westerners to achieve his vision, he sought for the continent to have African solutions created by African people. He did not tolerate fools and was a masterly media manager. He could go for months without seeing the press. But, when he had something to say, as he did in 1976 during the two visits by the US Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger, he astutely ensured that his version of events got across.
I remember one day sitting in his office questioning that a number of African countries had not paid their subscriptions to the OAU Liberation Committee Special Fund for the Liberation of Africa. He looked at me for some moments, thoughtfully chewing the inside corner of his mouth in his distinctive way. Then, his decision made, he passed across a file swearing me secrecy as to its contents. It contained the amount that Tanzanians, then according to the United Nations the poorest people on earth, would directly and indirectly contribute that year to the liberation movements. I was astounded; the amount ran into millions of US dollars.
It was the practice among national leaders in those days to say that their countries did not have guerrilla bases. Now we know that Tanzania had many such bases providing training for most of the southern African guerrillas, who were then called 'terrorists' and who today are members of governments throughout the region....Tanzania was also directly attacked from Mozambique by the Portuguese. But, in turn, each of the white minorities in southern Africa fell to black majority rule and Nyerere saw his vision for the continent finally realized on 27 April 1994 when apartheid formally ended in South Africa with the swearing in of a new black leadership"(5).
Mozambique was the first country in the region to win independence by armed struggle, six years after Dr. Mondlane was assassinated. His assassination in February 1969 was one of two major political killings in the region that year, followed by the assassination of Tom Mboya only a few months later in July, just about a month after I was first hired as a news reporter at the Standard while still in high school. I was 19. I started working full-time on the editorial staff after completing high school in 1970 and National Service in 1971.
As a reporter, I used to go to the main office of the Mozambique Liberation Front, FRELIMO, on Nkrumah Street in Dar es Salaam for the latest developments on the guerrilla war in Mozambique, and to pick up press releases. The office of the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa was also on the same street, on the opposite side, not far from FRELIMO's. The person I always spoke to when I went to FRELIMO's office was Joaquim Chissano, who later became president of Mozambique after the tragic death of President Samora Machel in a plane crash in October 1986. President Machel and his entourage were on their way back to Mozambique from Harare, Zimbabwe, when the plane crashed just inside the South African border not far from Maputo, the Mozambican capital. The South African government was immediately implicated in the crash, and subsequent investigations showed that the "accident" was an act of sabotage by the apartheid regime; as was the assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme who was a strong supporter of the African liberation movements in southern Africa.
Chissano was in charge of the FRELIMO office in Dar es Salaam, and Mozambique's minister of foreign affairs after his country won independence. He held the same ministerial post until he became president after Samora Machel was killed; Marcelino dos Santos, who also used to live in Tanzania during the struggle for Mozambique's independence, remained vice president, under Chissano, as he was under Samora Machel. Our interaction with the FRELIMO office in Dar es Salaam, as reporters, was facilitated by Chissano because he spoke English, besides Portuguese. So, it was easy to communicate with him, as much as it was with most of the freedom fighters from other countries at their headquarters in Dar es Salaam.
Dar es Salaam during those days was the epicenter of seismic activity on the African political landscape and beyond. The list of the names of those who came to the city, who lived here, and those who just passed through, during the liberation wars, is highly impressive, to say the least. It was here, in Tanzania, where Nelson Mandela first came in 1962 to seek assistance for the liberation struggle in South Africa. And President Nyerere was the first leader of independent Africa he met; Tanganyika was also the first country in the region to win independence, in 1961. Mandela also had his first taste of freedom after he arrived in Mbeya in southwestern Tanzania (then Tanganyika) where, as he states in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, he was not subjected to the indignities of color bar as he automatically would have been in his native land (6).
Almost all the leaders in southern Africa who waged guerrilla warfare to free their countries from white minority rule, lived or worked in Tanzania at one time or another. Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, first sought asylum in Tanganyika when he fled the land of apartheid in the early sixties. So did others, including many leaders, in South Africa today. They include the speaker of the South African parliament, Dr. Frene Ginwala, who once was editor of our newspaper, the Daily News, appointed by President Nyerere, before Sammy Mdee replaced her. She lived in Tanzania for many years, and is the person who received Mandela in Dar es Salaam when he first came to Tanganyika in 1962.
President Robert Mugabe also lived in Tanzania, and in Mozambique, during Zimbabwe's liberation war. So did Dr. Agostinho Neto, the first president of Angola, and Sam Nujoma, president of Namibia, and many of their colleagues in government. I remember interviewing Sam Nujoma in 1972 at the office of his liberation movement, the South West African People's Organization (SWAPO), on Market Street in Dar es Salaam; only a few minutes' walk from the offices of three other liberation movements: Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), and the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) of South Africa. I talked to Nujoma just before he left for New York to address the United Nations on his quest for Namibian independence. Looking very serious, and highly articulate on the subject, he was very optimistic about the future. And he was, of course, vindicated by history. But little did he or anybody else, back then, know that it would almost 20 years before Namibia would be finally free.
May other leaders found sanctuary in Tanzania. They included those from the Seychelles and the Comoros; President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda who attended the University of Dar es Salaam and lived in Tanzania for many years and who - after he became president - still called himself a disciple of Nyerere(7). Mwalimu Nyerere even wrote an introduction to one of Museveni's books, What is Africa's Problem?(8).
The late President Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) also lived in Tanzania, for more than 20 years, since the sixties after the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, his mentor. His son Joseph Kabila, who succeeded him as president of Congo after he was assassinated in January 2001, was born and raised, and attended school, in Tanzania. In fact, many Congolese refused to accept him as their leader because they saw him as a foreigner, a Tanzanian, who does not even speak Lingala or French, the main languages spoken in Congo, but instead speaks English and Kiswahili, although Kiswahili is also spoken in Congo by a significant number of people.
The list of people who found asylum in Tanzania goes on and on. They include many who became leaders in Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea, besides those in southern Africa - Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, South Africa - and other countries. Even Che Guevara spent quite some time in Tanzania. He was in Dar es Salaam for about five months from October 1965 - February 1966, besides the time he spent in the western part of the country during his Congo mission. And it was when he was in Dar es Salaam that he wrote his famous book, the Congo Diaries, while staying at the Cuban embassy during those critical months. In fact, before he embarked on his Congo mission, it was Che Guevara himself who recommended Pablo Ribalta to be Cuba's ambassador to Tanzania because of Ribalta's African ancestry which, Che felt, would facilitate his mission in the Congo. And during his mission to the Congo, Che sometimes used Kigoma, a town on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania, as one of his sanctuaries. But he had a very low opinion of Laurent Kabila - he has no leadership qualities and lacks Charisma, Che said - and other Congolese leaders whom he accused of bandoning their troops in eastern Congo, preferring, instead, to live in comfort in Dar es Salaam.
But in spite of the fact that Tanzania was the headquarters of all the African liberation movements, and a place which attracted many liberals and leftists from other parts of the world including black militants from the United States such as the Black Panthers, and Malcolm X who also visited Tanzania and had a meeting with President Nyerere and addressed the OAU conference of the African heads of state and government in Cairo, Egypt, in 1964 ( where he almost died when his food was poisoned, probably by CIA agents who followed him throughout his trip to Africa); our country still enjoyed relative peace and stability, not only during the euphoric sixties soon after independence, but during the seventies as well, when the liberation wars were most intense in southern Africa, with Dar es salaam, our capital, as the nerve center.
Therefore, besides the raids by the Portuguese from their colony of Mozambique on our country; a sustained destabilization campaign by the apartheid regime of South Africa whose Defence Minister P.W. Botha said in August 1968 that Tanzania should receive a "sudden hard knock"(9), and by the white minority government of Rhodesia (Prime Minister Ian Smith called Nyerere "the evil genius" behind the liberation wars), who had singled out Tanzania as a primary target because of our support for the freedom fighters; the influx of refugees from Rwanda, Burundi, and Congo into our country; and Banda's territorial claims; in spite of all that, Tanzania was, relatively speaking, not only an island of peace and stability in the region, but also an ideological center with considerable magnetic pull, drawing liberal and radical thinkers from around the world, especially to the University of Dar es Salaam which became one of the most prominent academic centers in the world.
Among the scholars it attracted was the late Walter Rodney from Guyana, who first joined the academic staff at the university in 1968 and, while teaching there, wrote a best-seller, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (10); the late Claude Ake from Nigeria who died in a plane crash in 1996; Okwudiba Nnoli, also from Nigeria (secessionist Biafra); Mahmood Mamdani from Uganda and one of Africa's internationally renowned scholars; Nathan Shamuyarira who - while a lecturer at the University - was also the leader of the Dar-es-Salaam-based Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe (FROLIZI) and went on to become Zimbabwe's minister of foreign affairs, among other ministerial posts, under President Robert Mugabe; and many others. C.L.R. James from Trinidad and Tobago, one of the founding fathers of the Pan-African movement who knew Kwame Nkrumah when Nkrumah was still a student in the United States, and who introduced him to George Padmore when he went to Britain for further studies before returning to Ghana (then the Gold Coast), was also attracted to Tanzania. So was Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong'o, who was disenchanted with the Kenyan leadership, and Ghanaian writer Ayi Kwei Armah, an admirer of Nkrumah as well as Nyerere, who has also called for the adoption of Kiswahili as the continental language just as Wole Soyinka has.
Besides Malcolm X, other prominent black American leaders who came to Tanzania included Stokely Carmichael (originally from Trinidad), who as Kwame Ture, lived in Guinea for 30 years until his death in November 1998; Angela Davis of the Black Panther Party, and many others in the civil rights movement including Andrew Young and Jesse Jackson. A number of revolutionary thinkers from Latin America, European and Asian countries, were also drawn to Tanzania and lived in Dar es Salaam which was the center of ideological ferment and provided an environment conducive to cross-fertilization of ideas stimulated by Nyerere's policies and ideological leadership. And Tanzania's prominent role in the African liberation struggle and world affairs because of Nyerere's leadership put the country in a unique position on a continent where few governments looked beyond their borders, with most of them content to pursue goals in the narrow context of "national interest," which really meant securing and promoting the interests of the leaders themselves.
Tanzania was therefore an anomaly in that sense, on the continent, as a haven and an incubator for activists and revolutionaries from around the world. And it remained that way, as a magnet, throughout Nyerere's tenure. It was also his leadership, more than anything else, which played a critical role in forging and shaping the identity of our nation, and in enabling Tanzania to play an important part on the global scene, far beyond its wealth and size, especially in promoting the interests of Africa and the Third World in general. The fact that Nyerere himself was chosen as chairman of the South Commission, a conduit for dialogue between the poor and the rich nations to address problems of economic inequalities in a global context, is strong testimony to that. And it was in this crucible of identity, a country that would not have been what it became, that my own personality was shaped.
In some fundamental respects, it is an identity, and an ethos, like no other on the continent: an indigenous national language, Kiswahili, transcending tribalism and not claimed by any particular ethnic group as its own - all the tribes and racial minorities contributed to its creation and evolution, a unique phenomenon; social equality as an egalitarian ideal implemented by Nyerere through the decades; national unity, and stability, that has virtually eliminated tribalism and racism as major problems in national life. Kiswahili helped more than 120 different tribes and racial minority groups - Arab, Asian (mostly of Indian and Pakistani origin), and European - to develop a sense of national unity and identity which has remained solid through the years, regardless of what the country has undergone since independence in 1961. And the egalitarian policies of President Nyerere reduced social inequalities across the nation, and guaranteed equal access to health, education, and other services on a scale probably unequalled anywhere else on the continent.
But probably more than any other asset, it was Nyerere's leadership which proved to be most useful at a time when we needed it most to forge a true sense of national identity, maintain national unity and stability, and consolidate our independence; as much as Mandela's magnanimity and wisdom proved to be an indispensable asset in South Africa's transition from apartheid to democracy at a time when the country could have exploded, engulfing it in a racial conflagration. The pundits, and laymen alike, who predicted this, were proved wrong, largely because of Mandela's astute leadership, like Nyerere's. Therefore it's not surprising that they are the only two African leaders who are favorably compared to each other, with equal international and moral stature. There is nobody else in their league.
I remember Nyerere well. Cordially known as Mwalimu, which means Teacher in Kiswahili, he led by example; his humility equalled by his commitment to the well-being of the poorest of the poor, yet without ignoring the rights of others, And he asked all to mae sacrifices for our collective well-being. As he put it, "It can be done, play your part." His dedication and identification with the masses, and his passion for fairness, were evident throughout his tenure as the nation's leader. When he became president, he worked and lived with them in the villages, slept in their huts, and ate their food. He spend days, and weeks, working with them in the rural areas, in all parts of the country. I know this because I was a news reporter in Tanzania. No other African leader lived the way he did, and worked in the rural areas as much as he did, clearing and tilling the land for hours with ordinary peasants. He was one of them and, they said, "He's one of us." Not a detached, arrogant leader and intellectual who felt it was beneath him to soil his hands like the poor, illiterate peasants did. I also know how humble he was, because of what I witnessed years before I even became a national news reporter.
I remember Nyerere when he was campaigning for independence. That was in the late 1950s when I first saw him. He had already been to the United States, and even appeared on American television with Eleanor Roosevelt in 1956 when he was interviewed by Mike Wallace. He came to argue our case before an American audience, academic gatherings, and the United Nations where he appeared more than once in the late fifties.
I was just a little boy then, under ten; he was in his thirties. But, in spite of my age ( I was born on October 4, 1949), what I saw then remains vivid in my memory as if it happened only yesterday. I was a pupil at Kyimbila Primary School, about two miles from Tukuyu. Founded by the German colonial rulers and named Neu Langeburg, Tukuyu was our district headquarters, for Rungwe District. It had been that way since the Germans built the town; it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1919, but was rebuilt. It had been the district's headquarters since the Germans built the town. And when the British took over Tanganyika after the Germans lost World War, they continued the tradition and kept the town - whose name was changed from Neu Langenburg to Tukuyu - as the headquarters of Rungwe District headed by a British District Commissioner, simply known as DC, who lived there.
Nyerere came to Tukuyu one afternoon, and our headteacher, who also happened to be a relative of mine, led us on a trip to Tukuyu to listen to Nyerere. As life then was, and as it still is today across Africa for most people including children, we walked the two miles to Tukuyu to hear him speak; a man who, we were told, was our leader and who was going to be president of Tanganyika in only about three years, replacing the British governor.
I was, then, too young to know the complexities of politics and political campaigning, all of which was an esoteric subject to us at that age. Yet, we were old enough to understand what he was saying in general; a message delivered in his usual simple style everybody, including children my age, was able to understand. And he knew there were children at the rally. He saw us.
He arrived in an open Land Rover, standing in the back, waving at the crowd. The people were just as jubilant. He stepped out of the Land Rover, and walked to the football (soccer) field to address the mass rally. He wore a simple short-sleeved light-green shirt, and a pair of long trousers (pants), and started speaking, using a megaphone.
It was a cloudy afternoon and, after he spoke for only a few minutes, it started raining. One of the local politicians of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) party, who had welcomed him at the rally, tried to hold an umbrella over him. But he refused to accept it, and continued to speak. He even made a joke about himself in self-deprecating humor implying he was insignificant, and also said something to the effect that the colonialists and other detractors were now, with all that rain, saying - "Just let him get soaked." And it kept on raining, but did not dampen his spirits. We also stayed, as almost everybody else did, impressed by his gesture and simplicity despite his status as the acknowledged leader of Tanganyika, besides Sir Edward Twining who was succeeded by Sir Richard Turnbull, the last governor and colonial ruler of our country. He got soaked in the rain just like the rest of us, and continued to speak until he finished addressing the rally.
It was such humility, devotion and simplicity, which remained the hallmark of his life and leadership. And it was evident even among some members of his family. I attended school with his eldest son, Andrew, at Tambaza High School, the former H.H. The Aga Khan High School which had been exclusively for students of Asian origin, mostly Indian and Pakistani, almost all of whom were Tanzanians. There were also some Arab students. And there were only a few of us, black students. We were among the first to integrate the school as mandated by the government under Nyerere. In fact, Mwalimu himself had experienced racial discrimination, what we in East Africa - and elsewhere including southern Africa - also call color bar. As Colin Legum states in a book he edited with Tanzanian Professor Geoffrey Mmari, Mwalimu: The Influence of Nyerere:
"I was privileged to meet Nyerere while he was still a young teacher in short trousers at the very beginning of his political career, and to engage in private conversations with him since the early 1950s. My very first encounter in 1953 taught me something about his calm authority in the face of racism in colonial Tanganyika. I had arranged a meeting with four leaders of the nascent nationalist movement at the Old Africa Hotel in Dar es Salaam. We sat at a table on the pavement and ordered five beers, but before we could lift our glasses an African waiter rushed up and whipped away all the glasses except mine. I rose to protest to the white manager, but Nyerere restrained me. 'I am glad it happened,' he said, 'now you can go and tell your friend Sir Edward Twining [the governor at the time] how things are in this country.' His manner was light and amusing, with no hint of anger"(11).
Simple, yet profound; for, beneath the surface lay a steely character with a deep passion for justice across the color line, and an uncompromising commitment to the egalitarian ideals he espoused and implemented throughout his political career, favoring none. He sent his son to a local school - with the sons of peasants - when he could have sent him abroad, as was customary among most leaders across the continent. They either sent their children to exclusively private and expensive schools within their own countries, or flew them overseas, and still do.
All this was in keeping with his commitment to social equality for all Tanzanians. He said we are not going to build a society based on privilege; we are going to narrow the gap between the haves and the have-nots, and abolish classes which accentuate cleavages and define some human beings as better than others. At our high school, almost everybody knew Nyerere's eldest son was one of the students. Yet he got no special favors. He was treated just like the rest of us, and we saw him as just another student like us.
And he saw himself that way, and acted that way. We lived in the same hostel, most of whose students were of Asian origin; ate the same food at the same table, and worked on the farm together, tilling the land, as true sons of a nation of peasants. Our school in Dar es Salaam had a farm where we were required to work, to instill egalitarian ideals in our minds. We walked to the farm, about two miles round trip, carrying hoes and sickles and other farm implements; a strong reminder that we were no better than ordinary peasants and workers simply because we have acquired some education and were destined to become part of the nation's elite. And Nyerere's son also walked around the city with fellow students and other friends, just like the rest of us, when many people would probably have expected him, as the president's son, to ride in a Mercedes Benz back and forth. But that was not the kind of society, based on class and privilege, President Nyerere was trying to build. And to his son's credit, he was just as humble, and friendly with everybody.
Our school was also fully integrated. We lived in the same hostel with Asian and Arab students. Other schools across Tanzania were also fully integrated - students and faculty. At our school, students came from all parts of the country, and from many different tribes. We were not encouraged to attend school - except the primary-school level - in our home districts which were usually inhabited by members of our own tribes. We were, in fact, assigned schools and jobs after graduation, away from our tribal homelands in order to live and work with members of other tribes. It was a deliberate effort by the government to break down barriers between members of different tribes and races in order to achieve national unity. And it worked. This was probably Nyerere's biggest achievement - the creation of a cohesive political entity unique on a continent riven with ethnic tensions and torn by conflict caused and fueled by ethnoregional rivalries in the struggle for power and the nation's resources. Our schools were a microcosm of what Tanzania became: a united, integrated, peaceful and stable nation.
It was also when I was in high school at Tambaza that I first got hired in June 1969 as a reporter by the Standard, which became the Daily News the following year. I started working full-time in 1971 after I finished high school the previous year. Our managing editor was Brendon Grimshaw, a British, and the news and deputy editor was David martin who also worked for the BBC and the London Observer for many years after he left Tanzania. President Nyerere was our editor-in-chief. But he never served in an executive capacity at the Daily News. As an overall guardian of this publicly owned institution - the paper was renamed Daily News after it was nationalized in 1970 - he gave us the freedom to say what we wanted to say, and even encouraged us to criticize the government and its policies. And he meant what he said. We wrote what we wanted to write, without fear of retribution or censorship. Others also testify to that. One is Philip Ochieng', probably Kenya's best known journalist, who was attracted to Tanzania by Nyerere's leadership and joined our editorial staff at the Daily News as a columnist. As he stated after Nyerere died, in a tribute to Mwalimu entitled, "There Was Real Freedom in Mwalimu's Day," in The East African:
"I never really covered Mwalimu Nyerere. By the time I got to Tanzania to work for The Standard Tanzania, I had been an editorial pontiff in Nairobi's Sunday Nation for upwards of two years. And that was what I continued to do in Dar-es-Salaam....
Working for the president, between September 1970 and January 1973, was probably the most enjoyable period of my entire journalistic career. There were at least two reasons for this. The first was that ours was a community of ideas. The second, contrary to what was constantly claimed here in Nairobi and by the Western press, was that the Dar-es-Salaam newspapers enjoyed a high level of freedom to publish. This reflected the fact that Tanzania enjoyed an unprecedented freedom of speech. But it was never licentious freedom of the kind with which Nairobi's alternative press assails our eyes every morning.
Following the Arusha Declaration of 1967, Julius Kambarage Nyerere had, early in 1970, nationalised The Tanganyika Standard from Lonrho and rechristened it The Standard Tanzania as the official print organ of the government. The Nationalist and its Kiswahili sister Uhuru already existed as the organs of the ruling Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), with Ben Mkapa as its editor. Brought in from London as Managing Editor of The Standard was a tough-talking South African woman of Asian origin called Frene Ginwala. Ginwala, who is now the Speaker of the South African Parliament in Cape Town, was a woman of strong left-wing convictions. She very soon collected around men and women from the international community with equally strong socialist views.
This was the context in which I left Nairobi for Dar-es-Salaam, invited by Ginwala. Mwalimu Nyerere acted as our (non-executive) Editor-in-Chief. And yet every Friday I published an opinion column highly critical of his system.
I waxed critical especially of the recently nationalised commercial and industrial houses: the corruption that was beginning to invade them and their umbrella organisations, the ineptitude, the apparent absence of development ideas. Yet never once did Ginwala or myself receive a telephone call from or summons to Ikulu (State House), complaining about anything we had written. Of course, there were many murmurs in the corridors of power against us. They accused us of being a bunch of communists, though we never were. But they dared not call a press conference to attack us. Nyerere simply would not have allowed them to do so....
Kambarage Nyerere remained one of Africa's quintessential men of the 20th century. His personal probity was unequalled...(as was) his refusal to use his immense power to enrich himself or his family.
It was his intellectual strength and moral fibre that enabled him, when he saw that his (socialist) experiment could not succeed, to admit openly that his life career had been a failure. When he nationalised The Tanganyika Standard, he gave us a charter which expressly challenged its news editors to criticise all social failings by whomever they are committed. I had never been and would never be freer than when I worked in Dar....This freedom of the press...was only a mirror-reflection of the much more important freedom of ideas throughout the country. Though Nyerere believed more than 100 per cent in Ujamaa, he never tried to force it down anybody's throat. Nor did he ever issue The Standard Tanzania, The Nationalist or the latter's Swahili daily and weekly counterparts Uhuru and Mzalendo, with any instruction to print only Nyerereist ideas or to slant news in favour of that ideology and its exponents.
If that had been the case, Tanzania's amazing pluralism of ideas at that time would not have reached the world. Yet it did reach the world, attracting into that country hundreds of intellectuals from all over the world. The University of Dar-es-Salaam at Ubungo was Africa's, perhaps the world's, intellectual Mecca. Dar-es-Salaam harboured all the radical liberation movements in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Ireland, South-East Asia, even the United States. It was a crossroads of such celebrated freedom fighters as Agostinho Neto, Samora Machel, Marcelino dos Santos, Jorge Rebello, Janet Mondlane, Yoweri Museveni, Sam Nujoma, Thabo Mbeki, Oliver Tambo, Gora Ebrahim, Amilcar Cabral, Angela Davis and others, exchanging ideas with us, often hotly....There were intellectuals - both native and alien - who expressed ideas so far to the right that they bordered on fascism. Others expressed ideas so far to the left that again they bordered on fascism....For these were not uniform minds....The humdinger, however, was that all these ideas were expressed freely and printed in the party and government newspapers with little attempt at editorial slanting and chicanery....
Until his death, Nyerere, who was humble, self-effacing and selfless, continued to serve humanity on many capacities - particularly his promotion of mutual South-South assistance to reduce dependence on Western alms and his attempt to bring about order in Burundi.
An intellectual of immense stature, a man of great personal integrity, a paragon of humanism, Julius Kambarage Nyerere will be hard to replace in Tanzania, in Africa and on the globe. I was privileged to know and work with such a man. That is why, as I mourn, I ask, with Marcus Antonius, whence cometh such another?"(12).
Members of the entire editorial staff were fully aware of the kind of freedom we had to criticize, and express our views. President Nyerere established that as a policy. Our editors, first Sammy Mdee who later on became President Nyerere's press secretary, and next Ben Mkapa who became president of Tanzania years later (1995 - 2005), did not violate this policy which was adopted after the newspaper was nationalized, and sometimes even invited reporters to write and contribute to editorials. Self-criticism was also routine. Every morning, before we went out on assignments, we had a post-mortem of the paper, presided over by the editor, dissecting the stories we wrote the previous day.
Such was the camaraderie, the ambience and egalitarian disposition, and the freedom, we enjoyed at our newspaper; the largest in Tanzania, and one of the three largest and most influential in East Africa.
Although we were independent and wrote whatever we wanted to write, we were also at the center of a maelstrom, because of the ideological ferment that the country was undergoing during that period in its quest for socialist transformation in pursuit of the egalitarian ideals of Ujamaa (Kiswahili word meaning familyhood) espoused by Nyerere: a political theorist and philosopher, scholar and politician, without a peer on the continent in terms of intellectual prowess and pursuits among leaders, with the exception of President Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal, a poet-philosopher - "I feel, therefore I am," he mused, reminiscent of Rene Descartes, "I think, therefore I am"; and Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, president of Ghana and revolutionary thinker and theoretician.
But Nkrumah was overthrown in February 1966 in a CIA-engineered coup before Nyerere enunciated his socialist ideology in the Arusha Declaration almost exactly one year later in February 1967, after the Ghana coup. So, with Nkrumah gone - he died in April 1972, six years after he was overthrown; I was at work at the "Daily News" the day he died when the news bulletin on his death came in on the telex - only Nyerere and Senghor remained on the scene as the leading political thinkers on the continent, despite Senghor's unabashed Francophilia which, nonetheless, did not diminish or compromise his intellectual stature especially among his followers, and even among some of his critics who saw him as a "black Frenchman"; he stepped down from the presidency in 1980 and went to live in France where he died in December 2001 at the age of 95.
Our newspaper, like the country itself, attracted not only reporters and revolutionary thinkers from different parts of Africa and beyond, but also reporters of different ideological persuasions from within Tanzania itself. There was, for example, Karim Essack - a Tanzanian of Indian origin - who was a leftist revolutionary and, like the rest on the editorial staff who were not leftist although some were, also an uncompromising foe of apartheid and other subversive regimes. He also wrote a book about Dr. Eduardo Mondlane and the liberation struggle in Mozambique and maintained, until his death in 1997, close ties with revolutionaries and radical thinkers around the world, including many in Latin America. As the socialist-oriented International Emergency Committee (IEC) - founded to defend the life of Dr. Abimael Guzman, a Peruvian Marxist philosophy professor and leader of the revolutionary group Shining Path, captured and imprisoned in Peru in 1992 - stated in October 1997 in its eulogy, "In Memory of Karim Essack":
"The IEC coordinating committee was saddened to learn that Karim Essack died this summer. He was a Tanzanian anti-imperialist who, for several decades, actively supported national liberation movements across the world. Karim Essack was a friend of the Peruvian people and a supporter of the People's War in Peru who dedicated some of his writings to Dr. Guzman and other PCP fighters. He was a signatory to the IEC Call and helped propagate the campaign in Africa. He will be missed"(13).
Karim Essack was just one of the reporters of Asian origin on our staff which was fully integrated: black African being in the majority, Asian (mostly of Indian and Pakistani descent), Arab, and British. This also reflected Nyerere's ideals. As Tanzania's president and editor-in--chief of our newspaper, he would not have tolerated an editorial team that was exclusivist, and intentionally did not reflect the racial and ethnic composition of our society - although, for practical purposes, not every tribe could have been represented on our staff or anywhere else. But the bedrock principle on which our society was built under Nyerere was that no one should be discriminated against. And he meant what he said. Few countries in the world can match Tanzania's record of inclusion. And it is not uncommon to hear people from other countries who have lived in Tanzania say, "There is no tribalism in Tanzania"; "Tanzania is the only country in Africa that has conquered tribalism"; "There is very little tribalism - and racism - in Tanzania"; "Tribalism - and racism - are not major problems in Tanzania." The last statement is closest to reality.
And in keeping with Tanzania's policy of welcoming refugees and promoting Pan-African solidarity as enunciated by Nyerere, members of our editorial staff from other African countries were not only guaranteed equal rights and accorded full protection like the rest of us, but also career advancement like everywhere else across the country; so were non-citizens from outside the continent. In fact, in the 1970 general elections, people from other African countries who were not citizens of Tanzania were allowed to vote. President Nyerere allowed that, as one of the ways of promoting African unity, and it is possible some of them even voted against him. But his gesture was highly appreciated and resonated far beyond our national borders.
At our newspaper, some of the foreign reporters who held responsible positions included Tommy Sithole, sports editor, who returned to Zimbabwe and became managing editor of the state-owned Zimbabwe Herald after his country won independence under the leadership of Robert Mugabe, himself of scholarly bent like Nyerere; Philip Ochieng', a prominent Kenyan political columnist and social commentator who wrote a weekly column, "The Way I See It," and also served as sub-editor. Ochieng' also went back to Kenya and served as editor of the government-owned Kenya Times before returning to the Daily Nation, Nairobi, where he worked before he joined our editorial staff at the Standard, later Daily News, in Dar es Salaam. He also wrote a book, I Accuse the Press: An Insider's View of the Media and Politics in Africa (14).
We also had sub-editors from South Africa, Nigeria, and Britain. The Nigerian sub-editor came from Biafra and fled his country during the civil war and was one of the many Eastern Nigerians, mostly Igbos, who sought asylum in Tanzania after their region seceded from the Nigerian federation. They included judges and professors, many other professionals and others who came to live in Tanzania during that critical period. And many remained in Tanzania after the war. It was Nyerere who extended such hospitality to them after Tanzania became the first country to recognize Biafra. And in Dar es Salaam even today, there is a place called Biafra Grounds where mass rallies are held. There are also many Nigerian doctors and other professionals in Tanzania. They would not have been able to live and work in Tanzania in such large numbers had it not been for Tanzania's track record of hospitality initiated by Nyerere way back in the sixties soon after Tanganyika won independence from Britain on December 9, 1961.
And Nyerere's policy of good neighborliness and Pan-African solidarity was also clearly evident at our newspaper which had an exchange program with neighboring Zambia; whose president, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, also shared ideological affinity with Nyerere. A reporter from The Times of Zambia, Francis Kasoma, joined our editorial staff and covered some of the most important political events in the country just as we did; it didn't matter he and a number of others were not Tanzanians. Kasoma returned to Zambia and later on became professor and head of mass communications department at the University of Zambia. He also wrote some books, including The Press and Multiparty Politics in Africa (15). Another member of our editorial staff who also wrote a book was deputy editor, Hadji Konde, one of the most renowned Tanzanian journalists, with vast experience in the profession. He wrote Press Freedom in Tanzania (16), and his work was preceeded only by Karim Essack's, among those written by newsmen who worked at the Daily News, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Another reporter on our editorial staff, Clement Ndulute, also became an author with the publication of his book, The Poetry of Shaaban Robert (17), published in 1994 (Dar es Salaam University Press). It is a translation of the works of Tanzania's eminent poet from Kiswahili into English. Ndulute went on to pursue further education and became a lecturer in literature at the University of Dar es Salaam, and later associate professor of African literature at Mississippi Valley State University in the United States. And I came up way down the road, as an author, with my first book published in 1999, 27 years after I left the Daily News. And unlike those by my colleagues which dealt with the press, and Ndulute's work of poetry, mine was about economics, entitled, Economic Development in Africa (18).
In that book, I do acknowledge that our socialist policies failed, as President Nyerere himself admitted when he stepped down in November 1985, and thereafter. But I also do know that they were not a total failure. We had notable success in a number of areas. As I state in my review - on Amazon.com - of Ghanaian economics professor George Ayittey's book Africa in Chaos:
"Ayittey has written an excellent book. In fact, I'm just as critical of Africa's despotic and kleptocratic regimes in all the books I have written. But I don't entirely agree with his assessment of Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, and Kenneth Kaunda.
He says his focus is not on the leadership qualities of any of the African leaders but on their policies. It is true that socialism failed to fuel economic growth. But an objective evaluation of what Nkrumah, Nyerere, and Kaunda did, shows that they had some success in a number of areas. Yet, Ayittey has almost nothing good to say about them in his book, Africa in Chaos. In fact, these are the three leaders of whom he's most critical in his book, devoting several pages to them more than any other African leader.
Under Nkrumah, Ghana had the highest per capita income in sub-Saharan Africa. It was Nkrumah who laid the foundation for modern-day Ghana. He built the infrastructure that has sustained and fuelled Ghana's economic development through the years. It is true that there were also many failures under Nkrumah, and after he was gone; for example institutional decay and crumbling infrastructure. But who built those institutions and the infrastructure?
Nkrumah built schools, hospitals, roads, factories, dams and bridges, railways and harbours. Tens of thousands of people in Ghana who are lawyers, doctors, engineers, nurses, teachers, accountants, agriculturalists, scientists and others wouldn't be what they are today had it not been for the educational opportunities provided by Nkrumah.
Ayittey talks about quality, saying that what mattered during Nkrumah's reign was quantity, not quality. What's the quality of the Ghanaian elite, including Ayittey himself, educated under Nkrumah? Are they not as good as anybody else? What was the quality of education at the University of Ghana, Legon? Did it admit and train students of mediocre mental calibre? Did it have inferior academic programmes? And an inferior faculty? Were more people dying in Ghanaian hospitals than they were being saved? Did the schools, hospitals, factories, roads and other infrastructure Nkrumah built do more harm than good? Would Ghana have been better off without them like Zaire under Mobutu?
In Tanzania, Nyerere also built schools, hospitals, clinics, factories, roads and railways, dams and bridges, hydroelectric power plants and other infrastructure. Although his policy of ujamaa (meaning familyhood in Kiswahili) was not very successful, it did enable the country to bring the people together and closer to each other in order to provide them with vital social services. The people had easier access to schools, clinics, clean water and other services provided by the government, than they otherwise would have been, because they lived closer to each other; which would have been impossible had they been spread too thin across the country, living miles and miles apart.
Also under Nyerere, education was free, from primary school all the way to the university level. Medical services were also free, in spite of the fact that Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world. Still, under Nyerere, it was able to afford all that. Everybody had equal opportunity. Under his leadership, Tanzania also made quantum leaps in education. It had the highest literacy rate in Africa, and one of the highest in the world, higher than India's which has one of the largest numbers of educated people and the third largest number of scientists after the United States and the former Soviet Union.
One of the biggest achievements under Nyerere was in the area of adult education. Tanzania, on a scale unprecedented anywhere else in the world, launched a massive adult education campaign to teach millions of people how to read and write. Within only a few years, almost the entire adult population of Tanzania - rural peasants, urban workers and others - became literate. Almost everybody in Tanzania, besides children not yet in school, was able to read and write. And the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania became one of the most renowned academic institutions in the world, in less than ten years, with an outstanding faculty including some of the best and internationally acclaimed scholars from many countries.
Provision of vital services even to some of the most remote parts of the country - far removed from urban and social centres - was not uncommon although the services were, I must admit, curtailed through the years because of economic problems. Yet, all that was achieved under Nyerere who sincerely believed, and made sure, that everybody had equal access to the nation's resources. I know all this because I am a Tanzanian myself, born and brought up in Tanzania, and was one of the beneficiaries of Nyerere's egalitarian policies.
Tanzania has come a long way, and still has a long way to go. But give credit where credit is due, in spite of failures in a number of areas, and which must be acknowledged by all of us. I even admit that in my books. But also look at where we were before: At independence in 1961, Tanganyika (before uniting with Zanzibar in 1964 to form Tanzania) had only 120 university graduates, including two lawyers who had to draft and negotiate more than 150 international treaties for the young nation and handle other legal matters for the country. With 120 university graduates, Tanganyika was, of course, better off than the former Belgian Congo which had only 16 at independence in 1960, and Nyasaland (now Malawi) with only 34 at independence in 1964. Still, that was nowhere close to what Tanganyika would have been had the British tried to develop the colony; which was never their intention. None of the 120 university graduates got their degrees in Tanganiyka. There was no university in the country. The British never built one, and never intended to build one. Tanganyika built one after independence, and it became internationally renowned as an excellent academic institution in less than a decade.
The 120 university graduates Tanganyika had at independence was nothing in terms of manpower for a country; not even for a province or region. As Julius Nyerere said not long before he died:
'We took over a country with 85 percent of its adults illiterate. The British ruled us for 43 years. When they left, there were two trained engineers and 12 doctors. When I stepped down there was 91 percent literacy and nearly every child was in school. We trained thousands of engineers, doctors, and teachers.'
Nyerere stepped down in 1985. And all that was achieved within 24 years since independence. No mean achievement" (19).
The cornerstone of his economic policy for Tanzania's development was ujamaa. And it was supported by the majority of Tanzanians, even if grudgingly by many of them. But even those skeptical, although not all, wanted to give it a chance. And when it failed, even Nyerere's harshest critics admitted that he meant well; which explains his enormous popularity across the country when he stepped down and the economy virtually came to a grinding halt especially during the last several years of his presidency. He remained as popular as he was through the decades.
And like the general population, our editorial staff at the Daily News was not a monolithic whole. Many reporters professed to be socialist, or supported Tanzania's socialist policies. But some were clearly at the other end of the ideological spectrum, including some of those who claimed to be socialist and strong supporters of Nyerere's ujamaa policies. This dichotomy or ambivalence is probably best explained by Nyerere's sincerity and enormous popularity among the masses. Reporters were part of the elite. So, going against the president who was an embodiment of the wishes and aspirations of the poor peasants and workers, and articulated their sentiments, would have been "treacherous" and "unpatriotic," some of them felt; in spite of the fact that he encouraged us to be critical and freely express our views. Yet few people - anywhere across the country - wanted to be seen as uncaring, betraying the masses. Therefore for some on our editorial staff, it was self-censorship, to be in line with the masses, although our writings were never censored. Many people, including reporters, found it hard to criticize Nyerere. His sincerity, humility, and deep concern for the masses confounded even some of his most ardent critics, as did his disarming and startling candor.
Much as Nyerere was revered, he remained humble until his last days. His humility and genuine compassion for the masses was probably the most prominent quality of his long political career spanning almost half a century....